When I observe turtles, slow and lazy is what I think of! The reality is many of our prejudices are flawed. When we look below the surface, we find there is so much more! Turtles have been around for 150 million years. To give you a perspective on how long that is, dinosaurs became extinct 65 millions years ago.
These amazing creatures have survived the test of time!
What can we learn from them?
Leatherback sea turtles for example migrate 20 000 km every year! They can cross the entire ocean in search of food, mates and nesting regions. They don’t move fast so we have the impression that they are not suited to travel long distances. What they have instead is endurance.
I will illustrate how continuous small actions lead to powerful results. Many of us set big goals hoping it will transform our lives. We often see this when we start the New Year. We are very motivated about a new goal; we take massive action in the beginning but fall back into our patterns because the shift is too great for us to maintain.
Here is an example of how doing less will have a greater impact in the long haul.
Morten T. Hansen and Jim Collins illustrate the power of consistent small steps in their book Great by Choice. They compare and point out key differences between two teams of adventurers seeking to be the first people in modern day history to reach the South Pole.
The date was October 1911, as the two teams of adventurers made their final preparations in their quest to reach the South Pole. For one team, it would be a race to victory and a safe return home. For the second, it would be a devastating defeat, reaching the South Pole 34 days after their rivals and in the end losing their lives as the winter advanced.
Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen offer some compelling differences between the two expeditions leaders. One was Roald Amundsen who successfully led his team to victory and the other was Robert Falcon Scott who reached the South Pole but unfortunately failed to bring his team home safely.
First Amundsen prepared by doing a pilgrimage to apprentice with Eskimos. What better way to learn what worked in polar conditions than spending time with people who live with ice, cold, snow and wind. This helped him understand what his team could experience in such an unforgiving environment. What struck me is he tried to stay on a pace between 15 and 20 miles per day. Even if the weather permitted them to move faster, Amundsen didn’t move faster when team members suggested to. Scott on the other hand would push his team to exhaustion on days when the weather was nice.
Another difference is Scott faced 6 days of gale-force winds and travelled on none, whereas Amundsen faced 15 and traveled on 8. Amundsen clocked in at the South Pole right on pace, having averaged 15.5 miles per day. He understood that keeping his team strong in these conditions was essential.
What can this teach us?
Real progress happens when we shift and make changes that we can sustain. My experience with change is that it is mostly done incrementally.
Like the turtle, you too can keep moving forward at your pace, learn to be patient in your progress to grow and become a better version of yourself. You must be consistent and take continuous action even on days where you feel uninspired.
When your energy is low, do less but make sure your actions have the impact you desire. To shape new habits, you need consistency! A shorter run, a ten minute meditation or a quick and healthy breakfast for you and your loved ones. Make sure you are mindful when you take action. Don’t simply make it a task to perform.
Have the discipline of a turtle to take small and consistent steps. This will not guarantee you their longevity but it will ensure your growth and progress in the world.
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